Impending Changes for Special Assistance Benefits

Many seniors don’t know about the North Carolina specific government assistance program known as Special Assistance. This program is available to those who fall below a specific income cap who live in an Assisted Living facility. Sometimes, our clients are confused about the various levels of care. You can receive home care, care in an Assisted Living Facility, as well as care in a Skilled Nursing Facility. Assisted Living Facilities provide assistance with Activities of Daily Living, such as bathing, medication management, dressing, etc. Skilled Nursing Facilities provide medical care and more aggressive care for those who are bed-ridden.

Most people who can’t remain at home would prefer to go to an Assisted Living Facility as opposed to a Skilled Nursing Facility, as it allows them a greater degree of independence. The North Carolina Special Assistance program provides government benefits for people in these types of facilities. Unfortunately, many people receive incorrect information about this program, as many call this program “Medicaid.” In fact, Medicaid and Special Assistance are two different programs, which can cause confusion for those who are trying to learn the rules.

Recently, the legislature has tried to make changes to the Special Assistance program. Fortunately, those already taking advantage of the program will not be affected. If the Center for Medicare and Medicaid approves these changes, the income cap will be lowered for regular Special Assistance applicants. Currently, you can only receive Special Assistance if your gross income is $1180 a month. If these changes are approved, the income cap will be lowered to $942 a month. Those who are applying to live in a Special Care Unit for dementia will see no change in the income cap. Today, average Assisted Living Facility costs range from $3,000-$4,000. If your income is around $1,000 a month, you will be unable to get the care that you need.

Unfortunately, many people are under the assumption that if they are destitute, they will qualify, and the government will provide Special Assistance benefits. However, if you do not meet the income test, the government will not provide Special Assistance benefits, regardless of the limited nature of your assets.

Finally, the legislature is implementing a residency requirement in order for applicants to receive Special Assistance. In the past, if you had an aging parent in another state, you could move them to North Carolina and immediately apply for Special Assistance. Now, if you move them here and need assistance, you must show that they have lived here at least three months before qualifying for the program.

If you have questions about the Special Assistance program, Medicaid, or Veterans benefits, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars, learn more through our website at, or call us at (919) 256-7000.

Attorney Bill Alexander discusses these issues and more every Tuesday morning on W.G. Alexander & Associates’ radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on TalkRadio 850 WPTK (AM). Be sure to listen from 9:00-10:00 AM.